The white chalk cliffs (inspired by the painting of Caspar David Friedrich)

Sylt and Rügen: The Tale of Two Seas

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Travelling to Germany for a beach vacation seems odd for foreign tourists. Against charming old towns and fairytale castles, it is easy to forget about the natural beauty of this country. Indeed, the popularity of Germany’s coast is hardly comparable to those in Spain, France, or Italy, but believe me, it is no less spectacular.


The coast of Germany is the tale of two seas. On the northwest, there is the fierce North Sea dotted with a handful of wind-whipped offshore islands, like glamorous Sylt. On the northeast, the Baltic Sea is milder and boasts the largest island of Germany – the Rügen. There are beaches on both sides, and while the temperature isn’t tropical, the drama of the waves crashing onto the white sand is irresistible.

Sylt

Dubbed as the star of North Frisia, Sylt is well known for the distinctive shape of its shoreline – a dancing woman. It is located 12 km from the mainland and near the border between Germany and Denmark. With 40 km of white-sand beaches to the west, a broad expanse of the Wadden Sea to the east, and well-preserved nature, the island is a popular destination for water sports and wellness holidays.

Sunset on the North Sea
Beautiful houses in Sylt

Rügen

With its pearly white beaches and beautiful landscape, Rügen draws thousands of visitors to its shore to enjoy nature. The highlight of Rügen is the Jasmund National Park where white chalk cliffs plunge hundreds of metres into the jade-coloured sea beneath. The most famous one is perhaps the Königstuhl (the Throne) – a massive granite structure that is up to 160 metres high. According to a legend, the name is derived from a tradition in ancient times by which the person elected king was the first to climb the cliffs from the sea and sit on the throne at the top.

Königstuhl (The Throne). It is said that whoever reached this cliff first would become the King of the Island.
The white chalk cliff of Rügen

Practical Information

  • Sylt is easily accessible by train from Hamburg. It took about 3 hours. Make sure you are sitting in the correct part of the train, as they sometimes split en route.
  • There are direct trains to Rügen from both Hamburg (4 hours) and Berlin (2 hours). Sometimes you might have to change the train at Stralsund.
  • Bus 20 and 23 go right to the Nationalpark from Sassnitz, the northeast coastal town of Rügen. The bus stop is just outside the train station.
  • Another way to approach the area is making the 10 km trek from Sassnitz along the coast and through the ancient forest of Stubnitz. The trail offers a spectacular view of the cliffs and is highly recommended for photographers.
  • If you prefer to know more about the cliffs and their development, the Nationalpark-Zentrum Königstuhl will be interesting for you. Otherwise, just skip it. Admission fee: 8.5€
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34 thoughts on “Sylt and Rügen: The Tale of Two Seas”

  1. Fantastic photos and post! The cliffs in Rugen are breathtaking..I don’t see anyone swimming, did you visit them during off-season? 🙂 I imagine the water must be cold.. I have been to North Sea beach in Netherlands and Baltic sea coast in Finland and Poland.. I did love the beaches, but the water was too cold 🙂

      1. It’s great that you found out local favorites and share them with us! I much prefer them than touristic places. I will check out your blog before traveling somewhere. 🙂

      2. Many thanks 🙂 I am glad to know that my blog could hep you plan your future trips. I haven’t been in many places yet, even in Germany, but I will try my best.

  2. Lisa – I’m Lisa, 21, 100% Italian, currently living and working as Digital Marketing Executive in my beloved London but during my spare time I love globetrotting around Europe [and not only, actually]! Travels are just ONE of my hobbies though, I enjoy crafting, eating & cooking healthy food and I love love loooove singing, especially blues and soul music!
    fromdreamtoplan says:

    Hi Len! Happy to have found your blog! I love the layout, the style the content…everything! I’ve read some of your posts and I can’t wait to read more! Looking forward to following you 🙂

    Lisa | http://www.fromdreamtoplan.net/

    1. Many thanks for your very kind words 🙂 I just have a look at your blog and I found it really great and inspiring, especially the crafting part *thumb up*. I am terrible at crafting but I might try 🙂

      1. Lisa – I’m Lisa, 21, 100% Italian, currently living and working as Digital Marketing Executive in my beloved London but during my spare time I love globetrotting around Europe [and not only, actually]! Travels are just ONE of my hobbies though, I enjoy crafting, eating & cooking healthy food and I love love loooove singing, especially blues and soul music!
        fromdreamtoplan says:

        My pleasure! Oh thank you very much! 🙂

  3. Norma – By profession, she is a soft skills and a communication skills trainer. As a person, she is a great observer, believer and holds a positive outlook towards life. She likes sketching, painting, reading and writing. Sometimes she would use her time cooking or gardening. And the other times she could use her camera to click photos of anything. She loves collecting memories of a place in the form of sea shells, pine fruits, mugs, soil sample or even small little stones from different places. Her favourite books are: Little Women, Power of intention, Autobiography of a yogi and Animal Farm to name a few.
    Norma says:

    Hey Len! Great blog and wonderful photos. So happy to have found your blog. 🙂

  4. jmacindoe – Toronto, Ontario – New blogger writing about travel, photography and whatever else peaks my interest. http://macindoe.ca/
    jmacindoe says:

    Awesome collection of shots!

  5. Very nice feature and photos! Just to add that the wild Western beach of Prerow on Darß peninsula at the Baltic Sea also really nice. But for bathing it must be really hot ….

    1. I have never heard of Prerow before. But I just googled, and I must say it looks no less stunning than Sylt. The beach is even wider 🙂 Thanks for the information!

  6. I have researched this area for a possible cycling trip. Seeing your photos, especially those white cliffs, has got me even more excited about exploring this part of Germany. You’re right, beaches aren’t the typical images that come to mind when people think of Germany. Great post!

  7. Alison and Don – Occupation: being/living/experiencing/travelling In our sixties, (Don is now 77) with apparently no other authentic option, my husband Don and I sold our apartment and car, sold or gave away all our stuff and set off to discover the world. And ourselves. We started in Italy in 2011 and from there have travelled to Spain, India, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, SE Asia, South America, etc. - you can see the blog archive. We will continue travelling until it's time to stop - if that time ever comes. So far it suits us very well. We are interested in how the world works, how life works, how the creation of experience works, how the mind works. As we travel and both "choose" our course, and at the same time just let it unfold, we discover the "mechanics" of life, the astounding creativity of life, and a continual need to return to trust and presence. Opening the heart, and acceptance of what is, as it is, are keystones for us both. Interests: In no particular order: travel, figure skating (as a fan), acceptance, authenticity, walking/hiking, joy, creativity, being human, adventure, presence, NOW. Same for Don except replace figure skating with Formula One motor racing.
    Alison and Don says:

    Such gorgeous photos Len. You do it every time! I wish I had half your skill. As for Sylt and Rügen – both look enticing, though certainly not for a traditional beach holiday, but just for the beauty of the area. I’ve never seen anything like those beach baskets! So unique.
    Alison

    1. Your words made my day, Alison. But I don’t think I’m that skillful 😛 The strandkorb is brilliant, right. Some even have built-in tables (like in the plane) and baskets to store towels, bags, etc.

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